Hungary will continue to stand up for Israel in the European Union, United Nations and the International Criminal Court, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said Thursday in his first call with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.
The call came less than a week after Hungary and Austria were the only two EU member states to oppose threatening sanctions if Israel moves forward with applying its laws to parts of the West Bank. The EU’s foreign policy is set by consensus, which meant its High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell made a warning statement in his own name, as did several EU states.
Szijjártó told Ashkenazi that he can “count on Hungary’s fair and balanced standpoint.”
The Hungarian foreign minister also said his country will “refrain from supporting statements that condemn Israel in both the EU and the UN,” according to a readout of the call.
In addition, Hungary opposes the war-crimes probe against Israel in the International Criminal Court, which it called “unfounded.”
The Hungarian Foreign Ministry’s statement said both countries are being attacked in the international arena “as a result of hypocrisy, bias and political correctness.”
Hungary faced criticism from its fellow EU member states most recently after its prime minister, Viktor Orban, took on broad emergency powers during the coronavirus crisis.
The readout also emphasized “patriotic, national values” as something that their government has in common with Israel and thus “the further development of strategic cooperation between the two countries is guaranteed.”
The statement claimed that both Szijjártó and Ashkenazi said: “Hungary and Israel share a common standpoint with relation to the issue of retaining identity and the importance of sovereignty and security, as well as with respect to the need to take action against illegal migration.”
An Israeli diplomatic source said that national identity and immigration did not come up in the conversation between Szijjártó and Ashkenazi, and the Hungarian statement is apparently based on past talks with Israel.
After the supposedly joint statement drew attention in Israel, the Hungarian Foreign Ministry said there was a translation mistake and the original statement in Hungarian did not attribute the quote to Ashkenazi.
In addition, the foreign ministers agreed that they would meet in person when possible.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry confirmed the call took place, but did not provide further details.
Borrell’s statement released on Monday night, with the support of 25 out of 27 EU states, said: “We strongly urge Israel to refrain from any unilateral decision that would lead to the annexation of any occupied Palestinian territory and would be, as such, contrary to international law.”
Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said his country rejects “prejudice” against Israel and called to hold a dialogue with the new government, Austrian news site Kurier reported.
Austria and Hungary called to invite Ashkenazi to an EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting.
The Trump administration’s peace plan allows for Israel to apply sovereignty to 30% of the West Bank, which includes all settlements and the Jordan Valley. The rest of the area would be designated for a Palestinian state that would be recognized and receive massive economic aid if it meets conditions such as demilitarization, stopping incitement and granting its citizens civil rights.
On Wednesday, the five European members of the UN Security Council – Germany, Estonia, Belgium, France and the United Kingdom – all expressed concern about Israeli annexation steps.
French Ambassador to the UN Nicolas de Rivière warned Israel that any such a move “would not be without consequences to the EU relationship with Israel.”
Annexation “would be detrimental to Israel’s role in the world, to its integration in its regional environment, as well as to Israel’s relationships with its partners,” he said.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.